Wednesday 7 September 2016

Go Timetable : Data Sorted?

Despite the "Wiles of the Bus Operators" & the PTE
And the PTE (Travel South Yorkshire) has got a new toy. It allows them to merge their infuriating bus stop departure lists.


From yesterday's blog, we saw that routes 24 and 25 interweave and have many sections in common. Equally they have significant differences. So here is the departure list at Old Mother Redcap.

The heading shows 24 and 25 ...
... but shows them going to all the same places (click on the picture to enlarge it). In the case of the 24, Richmond Hastilar Rd South is just plain WRONG. It doesn't go that way.

The departure list correctly shows the service as a 12 minute daytime route frequency (superscript y Stagecoach), but gives no idea whatsoever which way the different buses go early morning, evenings and Sundays when First Bus 24s appear (subscript z). Why not st and fb?
The only (possibly) useful piece of information here is to know which company operates the bus. Not only is the actual timetable a mess, but the bus stop presentation makes it worse.

Correspondent Andrew (who sent the picture) also writes, "Going the other way at Woodseats I spotted one with 24/25 grouped as was 43/43a/44/44a (to Chesterfield) with no route diagrams and no clue which bus went where."

The task of GoTimetable data management is to make sense of all this guff and present it in such a way as to (shock horror) help the passenger. It would be exceedingly tedious to explain the process in detail but it involves putting all sources of data together, selecting the right bits and adding realistic estimated times to complete the picture. The key is to match the end of the outward table with the beginning of the return run.

Thus Gotimetable Sheffield can show you a journey from Skelton Lane to Longford Road ...
... and you cane get off at Old Mother Redcap without going loopy further down the route. No other source of information can find such a journey despite the fact that it is a through bus. Traveline, for example, makes you walk ...
...  rather than wait here for the bus
Traditional Sheffield localities have been added with Woothorpe on the 25 and Stradbroke on the 24, ...
... a clear definition of the route between Meadowhead and Lowedges plus confirmation that Bradway Bank isn't Bradway ....
... all appearing when the "Show Extra Stops" box is ticked in the "three dots" menu.
A difficult philosophical question arises. Should GoTimetable merge 24 and 25 as per the PTE non-printed non-leaflet?
If routes are tidily similar, some merging of information makes sense. Note from the above that there is no mention of Skerton Lane or of the different routes between Woodseats and Lowedges. Without a time to remind the user, it is east to make mistakes. Also note that Stagecoach 25s also start from Woodhouse Cross Street!

7s (MUD GREEN) and 8/8As (MUD YELLOW), for example, have very different routes between Crystal Peaks and Manor Top ...
... but they come together to form a 10 minute frequency via Wordsworth Avenue in the north of the city.
GoTimetable, to reduce confusion, adds in the common bits of, say, route 8, to the route 7 timetable and vice versa. Here is a 7 journey on the 7 timetable page ...
... and here is a First Bus 8, added in on the common section of route.
Travel South Yorkshire (TSY) also merges the two but shows every possible variant on one table leading to much empty space and a lack of useful detail on the Crystal Peaks side. Detail is added on GT by the "extra stops" button ...
... but without the obscuration of trying to shoe-horn in the 8s.

A Similar technique has been used with 83 and 83A which are common for about 75% of their route, but diverge markedly to the south west of the city centre.

So should our friends the 24 and 25 between Woodhouse and Lowedges and/or Bradway Bank be merged? Because they diverge at four locations, probably not. The common section of route from Meadowhead into city is also covered by many other services.

But the team is anxious to have knowledgeable feedback (from locals!) on these matters.

However, mention of the "Show Extra Stops" option leads us to examine the search facilities on the system. These are powerful, useful and easy to use; but probably call for a bit of practice. More tomorrow.
First Bus Bristol apologises
chaos could continue to Tuesday
IT system still down
Unable to collect fares?

Northampton correspondent Alan sends a couple of pages from the United Counties staff manual of 1956.

They explain how to write paper tickets if the machine fails; a simple carbon copy system.
With today's very "coarse" fare scales it should be possible to have pre-printed pads.

GoTimetable Sheffield is designed for all modern computer operating systems. The web version is universal, the Android version is downloaded onto the device and thereafter needs to signal.
 Next GoTimetable blog : Thursday 7th September 


  1. Thanks for the web address - obviously not paid Google enough yet to bring it up the search results! I shall investigate further in due course, but at first glance:
    - Some odd ordering: 4 is followed by 4A, then 4 and 4A in the other direction. The same applies for withdrawn services - each direction is split by the withdrawal
    - I assume most people travel both ways? If it is not possible or intended to put both directions on one page, a direct link (T*a*e*l*n* style) to "other direction" or "return journey" can only be a plus to save having to go back then forwards.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion - anon. We have debated "service card order" for ages and concluded that whatever we do, some will be inconvenienced. All under review as usage grows, however.

  3. Another aspect of the confusion caused the the PTE's new mixing of routes is the 81/82. Southbound, they either go to Dore (81) or Millhouses (82). The numbers can then switch for the northbound service, so buses leaving Dore can be either 81 or 82 and the same for Millhouses. At southbound stops, both routes are shown as going to either Dore or Millhoues (why?) and then a letter shows which number BUT not which destination. How useful is that? Simon Reading.

  4. Thank you Simon. It looks as if the merging software is a waste of time and simply makes it even more difficult to find out where and when the buses go.

  5. Certainly not a local I'm afraid, but speaking from experience in a similar situation I would say merging the 24 and 25 could be useful. I used to have a choice when leaving work. Route 1's stop was 3 minutes walk to the West, Route 2, a 3 minute walk to the East. Both (frequent but non-clockface) routes followed wildly different routes but ended up at the same destination in roughly the same amount of time. It would have been so useful to have a single timetable that could have told me which way to walk. By the time I'd checked two timetables (on a no-doubt significantly poorer experience than GT!) I'd have walked to the wrong one. Ended up making my own timetable and using that.

  6. There are instances where the merging has improved matters, eg on the Millhouses loop for most people it doesn't matter if the bus is an 81 (to Stannington) or 82 (to Hall Park Head), so having a merged list makes more sense. But from the city centre it very much does matter, so there has been a loss of important information.